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Exercise Tricks for Getting Toned Abs ASAP, Says Trainer

No crunches or sit-ups required.

As a trainer, I've found that most people at the beginning of their fitness journey have one main goal in mind: getting toned abs or a flatter stomach. But they often don't know the best way to achieve that goal.

First off, achieving toned abs requires three main pillars: eating nutritiously to lose fat, strength-training to build and maintain lean muscle, and performing aerobic exercise to burn calories. Only once you're consistent with those three tentpoles is it time to move onto doing the right exercises for your abs. (It also should be noted that people with higher amounts of body fat won't see their abs, even if they're training hard.)

And there are definitely right and wrong exercises for your abs. People often assume that you have to do tons of crunches, side bends, and sit-ups in order to tone your abs. Those exercises can be great, don't get me wrong. But in my experience, they're not the best exercises for achieving toned, strong abs.

That's because the primary function of the abs is to resist against force and to transfer power to other parts of the body. Moves like crunches and sit-ups aren't really challenging the abs in that way—so while you may feel the burn, you're not training those muscles to their fullest potential.

It's also important to remember that your abs make up only one part of your core muscles. This group of muscles wraps around your body and is critical to maintaining good posture and ensuring you can do things essential to everyday living like sitting, standing, picking things up, and bending over. To really strengthen this area and lean out in the process, you should always incorporate exercises that will work your core in multiple directions.

Additionally, mastering proper breathing is crucial for sculpting abs through exercise. Exercising with your breath can help you power through harder moves without straining yourself, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Breathing also inherently engages your abdominal muscles, giving them an extra workout with each move. I typically recommend inhaling deeply through your nose before starting a movement, then as you finish, you blow all of your air out, forcing them to contract.

So, are you ready to give your abs a real workout? Here's a list of four exercises that help strengthen the abs and core muscles. Incorporate any two of these movements into your workouts to get toned ASAP. And for more abs workouts, check out: Over 60? Here Are the Best Abs Exercises You Can Possibly Do, Says Trainer.

Ab wheel x10-15 reps

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Get into a kneeling position with your hands holding the ab wheel. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, extend your body forward towards the ground, leading with your arms and hips.

Go down as far as you can while maintaining tension in your abs. And when you get to the bottom, exhale all of your air out before returning back to the starting position. Want more time-efficient ways to work your abs? Science Says This Abs Exercise Is the Single Best You Can Do.

Vacuum x20-30 seconds

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Get on all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Draw your stomach in as hard as you can, and hold that position while maintaining tension in your core. Relax your abs once you've held on for the prescribed time. And if you're curious about other quick exercises you can do at home, try: Quick and Simple Exercises for a Slimmer Waist and Tighter Abs.

Stability ball Russian twist x8-10 reps each side

Tim Liu

Start by placing your upper back on a stability ball with your knees bent, feet firmly planted, and glutes squeezed. Straighten your arms fully, then rotate through your rib cage and pelvis towards one side before moving towards the other. If you want to make this more challenging, you can hold a light dumbbell in front of you.

Tim Liu

Hanging Knee Raise x10-15 reps

Position yourself by hanging on a pull-up bar. Tuck your pelvis and—without swinging—drive your knees towards your chest. Flex your lower abs at the top of the movement, then lower back to starting position before performing another rep. Want even more workouts to try? Be sure to read 3 Workouts Proven to Change Your Body Shape, Says Exercise Expert.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., CSCS
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim
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